13 Year Old Hermit

Updated on March 15, 2012
D.B. asks from Eau Claire, WI
28 answers

My 13 year old son is a hermit. He rarely likes to leave the house. He would much rather stay at home and play video or computer games. We do force him to leave the house at times, but you can tell it just isn't fun for him. If we would let him, he would stay awake all night and sleep all day. He is very intelligent but has no ambition to do anything. We requested that he find something to do this summer so he won't be staying home doing nothing the entire summer. He has not even attempted to do this.

We going to have our youngest (almost 6) try karate for a month to see if he likes it. We mentioned that we would like the 13 year old to try it for month also. The older son blew a gasket and said that we shouldn't be forcing him to do something he doesn't like or have interest in.

So, do you think we are being unreasonable for "forcing" him to try something new for a month?

More Info:

He has never been a very social kid. (We lived in an area with no kids until he was 4 and he never went to daycare, so he has also been stunted socially.) He was just as much a hermit before he had any electronics. He does help around the house.

He never wants to try anything new because he is afraid he is going to fail. Until he has done something a few times, he won't admit he enjoys it. (We can tell however since he will be excited about it for a couple days, then he goes back into the "I don't like it" mode.) As far as depression, it wouldn't surprise me. We have offered to take him to counselors, get him meds, do whatever we need to do to help him, but he refuses all help.

Our thought was that by putting him in karate, he may actually build some real self confidence and start being more comfortable with putting himself out there socially.

More Info 2:

Friends: He really doesn't have many. He doesn't want to invite them over nor go hang out with them.

Computer: When he is asked to get off, he does. Occasionally he will have an excuse as to why he can't (that we veto) but generally he is good about doing it.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

For those of you who asked, I also an introvert. I spent a lot of time in my room growing up reading and watching tv. However, had someone asked me to try something new for a month, I would have done it. I guess I'm just a little more adventurous that he is.

I was kinda surprised that very few people actually answered the question that I asked.

As for counseling for my son, we did take him for several months and he refused to even speak to the counselor. At that point and time we did stop taking him since it was quite obvious that it wouldn't do any good. Maybe in a couple years when he matures some, we will try it again.

Featured Answers


answers from New York on

Help him start up a robotics team using Lego Mindstorms robot kit.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Are you by the water slide parks? We buy season passes ($65 ea) and the kids go like 3x per week in the summer. MORE than pays for itself! Its great exercise for the kids and it wears them out. My daughter is ADD and can be like this but she goes out when the neighborhood kids come over and they play in the cul-de-sac and ride their bikes, scooters, etc. She's 12. Hope you find something that works. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Does he invite friends over? Do friends invite him over?

He really should have chores and a couple extra chores he can get pd for. That's part of being in a family.

Limit the technology time. How does react when you ask him to get off the computer if he's been on it for a few hrs? Does he comply or does he stay on it for as long as he wants to...?

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from New York on

EDIT: I'll answer your question in a direct manner. YES, you are being unreasonable by trying to force someone to do something for a month.

Lemme guess, you're an extrovert. Your son is an introvert. If you keep forcing him to be an extrovert he's gonna be pretty aggravated with you. Could you sit in a room with a book for 24 hours with no social contact? Probably not. It would make you uncomfortable and a little nutty. Well, when you throw an introvert into an extroverted activity, like karate, it's like you being in that room with the book! I would have had a fit if my mother would have forced me to do extroverted things I had no interest in doing. Thank the Lord above my grandfather was pretty introverted so it was something my family understood.

I am 35, almost 36 years old and I have had the three friends since I was in 1st grade. Do I go to their house? Meh, sometimes. Do they come to my house? I'd rather go to theirs so once I've had enough I can leave. But these are very deep and long-lasting friendships. As an introvert, this is all I need. It's about quality not about quantity.

I am self-confident, self-assured, and I am not shy...at all. However, I am reserved, pensive and observant. People tend to think since introverts do not want to talk 24/7 there is something malignant going on that needs to be medicated or talked about. This is bane of an introvert's existence. Questions like, "Are you OK?' "What's wrong?' "Are you having fun?" "Why aren't you talking???" "Are you depressed?"` This is the constant loop of dialogue we have to put up with. It's very annoying and can make us very resentful of people. This is why some introverts tend to be a bit misanthropic. Introverts recharge their batteries by having quite time, concentrating on things they like, and solitude in copious amounts. Extroverts need to recharge their batteries by being around other people.

I played my share of video games, let me tell you. But I also graduated from high school, went to college, served in the Army, got married, had kids...normal stuff! Playing video games have very little to do with a child not wanting to get a job and basically being a bum. There is something else going on.

Google introversion, or better yet, read the Introvert's Advantage. It will help you relate to your son. Try to give him things to do that appeal to introverts. This would be things that can be done alone, or with maybe one other person at the most, that require skill and concentration. I like jigsaw puzzles, and I used to build model planes and cars as a kid.


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answers from Washington DC on

there's nothing wrong with introversion. lack of preschool does not stunt social skills, introverts are introverts.
it's cool to be an introvert.
what troubles me is the utter helplessness you seem to display in the face of your child's disconnect from the world. it sounds like you've put him in charge of everything in his life and are now unhappy with how he's structured it. an introvert, and a possibly depressed introvert at that, is not going to pepper his life with adventure opportunities. he's going to stay in his room.
there are plenty of happy mediums. you can embrace his personality and not try to change it while still parenting firmly and compassionately and insisting that he sample life. he's only 13, he doesn't yet have enough miles in the saddle to judge that everything outside his video games isn't for him.
you don't 'offer' to take a depressed child to get evaluated and get help. you take him. period. nor do you 'suggest' he find something to do for the summer, you give him a choice of 4 things and tell him to pick which one he wants. you find him 5 activities that take place on a weekly basis and tell him to choose one. you limit the amount of time he can spend gaming, and if he doesn't comply with your expectations of outside activities, you terminate them altogether. nothing like sitting in one's room for a few weeks with no screens to inspire a child to do something else.
this isn't punishment. he hasn't done anything wrong. i'll bet he's a sweetheart. but he needs you to take a stand right now and give him the guidance and boundaries he needs.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

How does a 13 year-old refuse counseling? You are in charge of his physical and mental health care. If you say he goes to counseling, he goes to counseling. This isn't like whether he goes to karate or not, this is like whether he goes to the doctor or dentist.

We had a 14 year-old that we took, unwillingly, to counseling every other week for an entire year. It did wonders for him in the end, but wasn't easy week to week.

Please get him counseling now, or you will have a 20+ year-old hermit in your house addicted to video games. It happens!

OneAndDone - Hermit crabs CAN live up to 12 years!! We have three of them, so I thought the same thing when I saw this post.

Added: Karate is not an "extroverted sport". I am an introvert. I have a Black Belt in karate. The martial arts are actually a very good choice for an introvert. It is more of an individual sport and you are not judged compared to others, only according to your own abilities. Swimming is another good choice for an introvert.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Hmmm. You're the parent. Why are you asking him to do things. It shouldn't be up to him whether or not he's evaluated for depression. And, if he doesn't come up with something to try, you tell him he's trying out karate. Tell him that when he comes up with a better suggestion you'll drop the karate.

Your post sounds so much like you're leaving everything up to him. He's only 13. He needs direction from you.

Make an appointment with his doctor. Take him. If he refuses to go there will be a consequence. Get him into counseling. Ask for help from the doctor. Perhaps talk with the doctor ahead of time.

Limit his time on electronics. Require him to read or do some other activity for so many minutes before he can go on the computer.

Set up times for friends to come over. You invite them over. Find a boy his age that has similar interests. Talk with his teacher(s) to learn who might be willing and helpful. Talk with his teacher(s) and school counselor to get ideas.

When the kid comes over, plan some activities and snacks. If they need help going forward, hang around and keep the social aspects going.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Well sounds like he is apathetic.
Has he always been this way?
Does he have friends?
Invite friends over.

Limit him and his computer time.
Tell him, he has to do something creative... around the house.
Or, he will not "earn" video/computer time.
I hope the computer is not in his room?
He will be more of a hermit that way and you will not be able to monitor his web surfing etc.

What are his interests? have him join a club maybe.

Or, I would MAKE HIM do CHORES around the house, since he insists on not doing anything outside the home.
Is he even responsible, for anything in the home?
I would make him do so.
He can't just be a lump.
Be productive at least.
Not just plugged in all the time to a computer.
And staying up all night and sleeping all day.

Or is he depressed?
How is he doing in school?
Does he have friends?
Is he bullied?
Is he just lazy?
Does he do well in school?
Or is he just apathetic overall?

He is a kid.
And being responsible and growing-up... MEANS.... doing things even if you don't want to. As he gets older, he will have to learn this.
He is a PART of the house and the family.
Assign him, chores.

Make a schedule for him even, if you have to.
What he needs to do around the house and when.
Organize him.
Even if he does not want to go out.
Make him earn, screen time.

Sure, he may be a home-body. But even a homebody... needs to do things around the house.

Or does he have some social phobia?
Is he adjusting to middle school well?

Google search "Teen Boy Development."

Teach him, that he needs to be, productive.
And being creative.
And not just sitting and being a lump, who just blows a gasket saying you can't force him to do anything.
Yes, you can.
You are the parent.
Give him writing assignments, painting assignments, cleaning assignments. Raking the leaves.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I just know that in 5 years you are gonna be posting a question about your 18 yo son that you are afraid he is not gonna graduate and has no motivation to do anything about it...and the following summer he just sleeps all day....stays up all night...hardly eats....not interested in getting a job....and you don't know what to do about it. GET RID OF THE ELECTRONICS!!!!!!!!!!!!! before it is too late.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

He sounds a lot like I was when I was a kid. I had my own interests and my parents couldn't understand that I would rather stay in my room and read, draw or play games than kick things, throw a ball or ride my bike. I was also a night owl and it took a crane to drag me out of bed in the morning. Watch this video about introverts to maybe gain a little insight about what makes your son tick.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

My 9 year old is very similar to this, he is a homebird, whenever we go anywhere his first comment is "when can we go home!" I am an outdoor person, so it's hard for me, and I force him to go outside. The only outdoor activity that my son has EVER liked going to is scouts. For some reason he likes scouts! I have no idea why, because he is an indoor type. My son is not depressed though, he is happy as Larry.
If he likes computers, then maybe get him into something that involves them, like game design, or making movies. My sons favorite thing to do, is make movies of all sorts of things, and edit them on the computer.
As for finding himself something to do in the summer, you need to do that for him, he will never do it himself. The only other thing my son likes to do is the YMCA program during the summer, I think because it is lots of different activities and they switch it up - also he gets to pick from a long list of stuff what he wants to do - so it is his choice.
My son has few to no friends. He hardly ever gets invited places - he is different, I hope one day he will find an equally geeky friend!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Oh--it's your son.
At first glace I thought I was going to have this hermit crab for another 12 years!

Do you have a YMCA nearby? They usually have summer programs.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Maybe he's so comfortable at home with all the electronics to entertain him he sees no need to leave the house. Limit them or take them away and reintroduce them in small increments.

I wouldn't be asking him at this point to find something to do this summer, I'd tell him that since he can't find anything to do, you did it for him. He's 13 and should be well-skilled in respecting you, not blowing a gasket and telling you you shouldn't be forcing him into something. You still need to nurture and guide him along, it's the responsibility of being a parent. When you see something in the way a child is dealing with life you don't like, you need to step in.

I don't think you're being unreasonable. It's his opinion and he's entitled to it, but you are his parents.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I would push the karate. Really, I would. I like that you think he should find something to DO over the summer, but not really a fan that you said "you'd like him to..." He might be 13, but he still is a kid, and a boy and sounds like an unmotivated one at that. I am pretty familiar with that actually. We have one too.

Ours has been in karate since he was 5. He just earned his 2nd Dan (2nd Degree Black Belt) last month. It has been a long time, and lots of work over the years. There have been plenty of times he has said he doesn't want to continue, and what we told him was this: If you have something else you want to do, (soccer, wrestling, baseball, tennis, golf, etc) then fine. We'll take some time off karate so you can do it. But you will not take time off from karate and just SIT AROUND and do nothing. Period.
So, when you decide what it is you want to try, or sign up for, let us know.
He is still doing karate. And guess what... he really likes it.

There are some aspects that are not his favorite, but he likes it. He just told us tonight they are having another leadership seminar at the end of the month that he wants to go to. It is a weekend thing. They meet on Friday after school, and go for an entire weekend (like a camp) and come back on Sunday afternoon. He went last year (after we talked him into it) and he LOVED it.
He is also starting to figure out what he actually has real interests in... right now it is skateboarding. He's like the "idea" of a lot of different things--skateboarding included-- in the past. But he never actually did any of them. He "earned" a penny board for getting his 2nd Dan and it is all he wants to do right now. He wants to get his school done so he has time to skate.

I say, since he hasn't come up with anything on his own (I assume he has online access to find out what is available for him to do where you live), that you ARE signing him up for karate. And he will go. And give it a fair shot. Who knows, he might love it. My son has made some great friends there, too. Of all different ages! Some younger, some the same as him, and some are older and/or are instructors...

If you can enroll them in different classes (your older and younger sons) then I would. And speak to the instructor and let them know you would be happy if your son could cultivate some new friendships with fellow students, and ask what they can do to help in that regard. Our son's school actually has "teen" events periodically, where they take the kids to do something. Bowling, movies, water park, beach, etc.

Good luck. When you figure out what makes him tick, it will get easier.

ETA: btw, karate is very much an individual sport. Not a team sport. I think that is part of the reason my son wasn't a fan for so long. He is more of an extrovert and very social. But during class, there isn't a lot of socializing. Everyone is working on their own forms/techniques. So it really is a nice sport for introverts. :) They do have time before and after class when they have more relaxed time and can hang out with friends, etc. He has also started taking the jiu-jitsu classes, though, and they are much more social--since they are ALWAYS involved with another student doing take downs or pins, etc. Also a smaller class and so more fraternization. And he prefers the jiu-jitsu over the TangSooDo for that reason, I think. Just food for thought.

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answers from Appleton on

Being a hermit can be the beginning symtom of mental illness. I'm not saying that to scare you but it is true. I would limit his gaming time to only a few hours a day--not all together. Say 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours after dinner. I feel that video/computer games can be addictive. These games encourage kids to win or beat the opponant--it would be like a kid from the '60's or '70's staying out on a basketball court for hours a day practicing their free shot. You need to make him get out of the house and get him involved in life. He needs to make friends and find another passion in life.
Karate is a good idea. He needs to move his body and learn to control his muscles.
I would also get into counseling whether he likes it or not.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

The first thing I would do is take away or limit the video gaming. You can set controls on the X-box so that it turns off after being used x amount of time each day. Yes, many people are introverts and prefer time at home rather than being social, and that is fine, but seriously, these video games (shaking fist in the air!) I have to admit that I clicked on your question based on the fact that I have a 32 year old hermit husband that never wants to leave the house, has barely any friends, and basically has to be forced to do "activities". All he wants to do is play video games, it is the ONLY thing he is interested in. For real. It is a huge problem for me and our marriage. Our son is similar, but he is 8 so at least I can control him better and make him choose something other than the video games, but if I let him choose, I guarantee he would choose to play video games for 20 hours straight.
YOU are the mom. To me, it sounds like you are giving too much control to your son. He does not get to choose whether he goes to the doctor. As for karate, I would not force him to necessarily do karate or a sport, but I would put my foot down in regard to the tv and video games, as in "Son, you will find something to do besides video gaming all summer. The Xbox time will be limited to 2 hours a day/weekends only/whatever mom chooses. Here is a printout of activities options, please choose 1." The activity doesnt have to be a sport- lord knows I hate sports and it would be awful for me if I HAD to enroll in one, but there are plenty of other options- volunteering, art classes, lego workshops, computer classes, going to the rec center, swimming, a teen camp, etc. In addition, I would suggest you do activities as a family and he has to come along. Go to the library so he has plenty to read, go on a family walk a few times a week, go swimming, camping on the weekends, volunteer. The key in my opinion is not to force him to be social or sportsy but to get him to expand his mind and try other things rather than the %*&$ video games :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

When I was 13 I loved being in my room.
I was social, outgoing & had friends.
My parents hated that I wanted to hang out in my room.
Back then I saw on an afternoon kids special how kids of that age love to hang out in there room. I yelled for my mom to come into the living room to see it. She came running into the living room & caught it.
Fast forward to today...my 13 yr old SD loves to hang out in her room. She doesn't have many friends but she's social, healthy etc.
I would not make him take Karate.
That is a very specific sport.
My mom never "made" me take on a sport.
I came love softball, basketball & volleyball all in my own time on my own
My sister liked none of these things. She, also, stayed in her room at age 13. She found her own activites & likes.
Some kids are not as social as you & I are.
Interact w/him yourself. Ask how he's doing. Don't be pushy though or you'll push him farther away.
It's a fine line.
That age is a tricky one. Starting to come into their own, puberty etc.
You say he has no ambition. Encourage what he DOES like.
My sister was a night owl. I was an early riser.
We are ALL different.
My sister & I were very different. Growing up & to this day.
As you say he is intelligent.
Foster what he does like.
Don't "make him to an activity/hobby" he doesn't like. It's useless & not a good idea.
He sounds like an introvert, homebody that likes to play on the computer.
Make sure what he's doing isn't harmful to him then let him be.
He will come into his own.
Be supportive and don't "make him" do activities he's uncomfortable doing.
Remember you are not trying to control him. You are trying to encourage
him to find activities that HE likes.
Hang in there. Wishing you all the best.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

I don't think you'll have much luck forcing a teenager to do something he doesn't want to do, what if you just took away the fun he has at home? Limit the video and computer games, and tv watching, basically anything with a screen. Maybe if he's bored at home it will force him to find something else to do. I'd rather have a teenage hermit staying home reading or something rather than playing games!

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answers from Chicago on

Send him to a summer camp if you can affoard it. I do not think you are being unreasonable by any means. My neices (one a boarderline hermit) all have to do something over the summer, most do cheer and one goes to summer camp for a few weeks - month something like that.

Something like this could be great fun for him!

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answers from La Crosse on

There are varying degrees of introversion, so your son is probably more introverted than you are. To answer your original question, you are not being unreasonable, but I think it will be an exercise in futility. I am an introvert, and so is my 14-year-old daughter. My husband is an extrovert and has a hard time understanding the need (yes, it's a need) to be alone in order to recharge. Do you know what he's doing on the computer? Is he on social networking sites, playing games, or what? I might suggest sitting down next to him at the computer and asking him to show what he enjoys doing the most on the computer. You might have a techie genius on your hands, or a gifted writer, or a graphic artist. Just a thought. :)



answers from Omaha on

Please read the response of ClarifiedMom!!! She said it so well! As a fellow introvert...I can relate. Some people just prefer their own company over that of others. Just because he is not particularly social, does not mean there is something wrong with him.



answers from Kansas City on

You know my little brother was the type that couldn't bear to fail in front of anyone. He got very frustrated learning to waterski in front of the whole family with all their advice. So me and my boyfriend took him to the far side of the lake, all alone, and had him going in minutes. Same with learning to ride a bike. Maybe choose a hobby he can get going on without everyone watching and judging? Especially if he has a bit of interest to begin with. Maybe he would like guitar lessons or something he can get good at privately and maybe connect him with others in time. Tough years, good luck. :)



answers from Des Moines on

You didn't say how his grades are, and that would influence my answer. However, when he turns 16 (or 18 some states) you will have no legal authority to force him to do anything he doesn't want to do. Do not give him a choice about counseling, he needs it. Threaten to take away the video games & computer (for a month or so) if he doesn't cooperate. With summer coming up, YOU give him some choices and he HAS TO choose at least one, or same consequences. He can choose karate, music lessons, chess club, swim lessons, baseball team, volunteering at the Humane Society (walk pets, etc.), volunteering at the library, reading club, local hospital, nursing homes, etc. This way you have the parental authority to make him do something for his own good, but he is getting to choose which activity he wants to participate in. Before giving him the choices be sure to tell him that the lessons, activity, etc., must be completed for the duration. He can't agree to start for a couple of weeks and then drop out. Because of this you should tell him he needs to think carefully before he makes the final choice. He's also old enough to mow lawns, rake, take care of pets when people are on vacation, etc.



answers from Atlanta on

Video and computer games have been proven to have an addictive quality to them. They are escapist media, and so a child going through puberty might prefer to disappear inside there and never face the real world. Even adults have had to battle this problem. Frankly, I agree with Casey: the games need to go. I wouldn't force him to take Karate, but I would get rid of the electronics. Otherwise, I think you're setting yourself up for failure. Good luck.



answers from Minneapolis on

I would not force him into Karate.

However, if you think he might be depressed then take him to see someone for counseling. He does NOT get a choice in whether he attends counseling. You do.



answers from Omaha on

He is 13? He has no say as to whether he goes to counseling. I would sign him up for karate, and I as a parent, would join the class for a month as well. make it a family affair if you can. I see several of my son's friends that seem to be the same way. it's sad, as my son then has noone to play with. all the kids seem to stay inside all the time. Most are only children who had no siblings to play with(as my son and yours seem to have been as well) Maybe try chess club, or something intellectual at school?


to answer your original question- no you are not being unreasonable :)



answers from Chicago on

13 is a tough age for boys (not that I have any that age, but from what I hear!). I can see how he would be resistant to being signed up for something he has no interest in.

What about signing him up for something he might enjoy more? Maybe he would enjoy a video game designing camp...or a science camp. I'm not sure what he spends his computer time doing, but finding other kids his age who have similar interests would probably help him feel more at ease.



answers from Chicago on

I would not a force him into karate, but would force him to make a decision as to what he wants to do. If he does not come up with something by such date (May 10 or something like that), give him some choices. If he does not choose one, you get to choose it for him. The problem with forcing it is that it can really backfire and no matter how much he could like it, since he was forced, he will hate it. I have a just turned 13 yr old boy and he is just like you describe yours. We did not have any boys in the neighborhood until the past year and most are a lot younger or he doesn't know them. A few are troublemakers so they are ruled out. 2 boys on our block are nice but they have nothing in common. I have already told my son that he is not, in any way shape or form, staying inside all summer like he did last year. Pertty bad when you have to kick your child out of the house, isn't it?
Oh, we did try counseling and the only thing that came out of that is that he was a bit immature but not depressed or anything. She saw him as a very bright child that just liked to keep to himself.

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